APEX — It wasn’t a characteristic start to the season for either Apex or Middle Creek’s girls’ soccer teams – an observation that left one side pleased and the other searching for answers entering Monday night’s head-to-head game.
The visiting Cougars found a few of the solutions they’ve been looking for as they defeated Middle Creek 3-1.
In hindsight, Apex opened with the third, second and first place teams in the Tri-9 Conference, and did so without the benefit of much practice time. The usual Tri-9 contenders stumbled to a winless five-game start but have won its last two by a combined seven goals.
“We literally stepped on the field with one practice and we started the games right away,” said senior Paige Reckert. “We’ve had some upsets, but there’s been so much triumph. We’ve come together so much more. There’s a lot more team bonding. Our connection with passes is so much better than our first game.”
Reckert scored a 15th minute penalty and a 47th minute breakaway.
“I really feel like it’s coming together. It feels great to get a couple of wins under our belt,” she said.
History shows: It’s not known if Middle Creek has ever beaten Apex – they have forced one tie against the Cougars since 2008, the last time the Mustangs reached the playoffs. But Middle Creek (3-5-1, 2-5-1) is still off to one of its more encouraging starts since that 7-14 season in ’08.
“We’re excited about how it’s looking,” said Middle Creek coach Kevin Ebner. “It says a lot that we’ve aleady been able to win a number of the games, but (also) competing.”
This is Ebner’s second season, and he says the familiarity between him and his team has helped.
“They’re putting in a lot of effort and determination and doing the small things off the fields, in practice and the offseason,” Ebner said. “(There were) things that weren’t really in place before, so now that those things are in place, they’re starting to see the results and it’s starting to rub off on one another.”
Putting up numbers: Middle Creek goalkeeper Abby Coffey made 10 saves in the contest, including two shots from Reckert that nearly crossed the goal mouth. Reckert’s pair of goals gives her eight this season (in five games).
“When I play in the midfield, it’s a lot easier for me to connect passes to the wide players than have my back facing the goal and having to turn,” Reckert said.
Jessica Wight of Apex scored with 17 seconds left till halftime, while Middle Creek’s Jade Loftis scored in the 79th minute to put the Mustangs on the board. Julia Ritcey and Kaitlin Walker had the assists for the Cougars (2-4-1, 2-4-1).
Feeling the impact: The results of Monday’s games placed Apex and Athens Drive (3-7-1, 2-4-1) tied for fifth, with Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina (3-5-1, 2-5-1) each just one game back. The Tri-9 Conference only receives five automatic berths in the state playoffs.
Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps